Building a Powerful Remote Leak-Detection Platform for Aerial Surveys With the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, Multisim, and PXI

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"Using the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, we were able to start with a proven and reliable real-time OS with well-defined methods for integrating devices."

- Noah Aklilu, Synodon, Inc.

The Challenge:
Developing a powerful survey platform that can detect aerial leaks for oil and gas companies.

The Solution:
Building a system using the NI LabVIEW Real-Time Module running on an NI controller with multiple PXI modules to integrate several instruments into a reliable survey platform.

Noah Aklilu - Synodon, Inc.
Adrian Banica - Synodon, Inc.

Synodon and the realSens System

Synodon, Inc., was founded in 2001 to develop a remote leak-detection platform for pipelines based on sensing technology from the Canadian Space Agency. Through this system, we provide an aerial survey service so oil and gas companies can effectively monitor networks.

For the realSens system, we needed to build a platform that would be certified by regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada, for airborne operation and would operate reliably on a helicopter. The system consists of the main platform mounted at the back of a Bell 206 series helicopter and a navigation display installed in the cockpit. The navigation display provides the pilot with guidance on the location of the pipeline as well as other tracking aids that result in a successful survey.

Real-Time Monitoring With the LabVIEW Real-Time Module and PXI

The main system, managed by an NI PXI-8110 controller running the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, integrates instruments using a series of PXI modules, such as an NI PXI-6289 M Series multifunction DAQ module. The information collected during the survey includes helicopter flight data as well as data from the instruments. Using the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, we were able to start with a proven and reliable real-time OS with well-defined methods for integrating devices.

We took advantage of certain patterns for tasks, such as image acquisition with NI cameras, to focus on developing algorithms instead of figuring out how to write a driver for a particular piece of hardware. In addition to performing data acquisition, the software dynamically adjusts the configuration of the various instruments based on incoming data. With such a complex multithreaded operation, the LabVIEW Real-Time Module is key to system software functionality.

Interface Design With NI Multisim and Ultiboard

The electrical interfacing in the system uses a circuit board we designed with Multisim software. This custom circuit board replaced an SC-2042-RTD expansion device. The Multisim parts database includes multiple footprints for components such as high-density connectors. This greatly simplified the design process.

Having a custom board simplified servicing because we didn’t have to worry about someone accidentally disconnecting a wire from the screw terminals on the SC-2042-RTD. Using a custom board also reduced the noise present during data acquisition. And we used Multisim to design the circuit board for the cockpit navigational display power supply.

Powerful Graphical Implementation

The navigational display in the cockpit provides the pilot with critical information such as the location of the pipeline being surveyed, the relative helicopter position, and survey completion percentage. We developed the display software using LabVIEW as a run-time implementation. The information provided to the pilot is based on data received from the main system. Using LabVIEW on the display unit and the LabVIEW Real-Time Module on the main system gave us a well-abstracted communication protocol. Using this communication protocol, the display can monitor the health of, and obtain positional information from, the main system. The display uses the graphical objects in LabVIEW to provide the pilot with a map-based navigational system.


Using NI tools, we can offer the oil and gas industry a sophisticated survey product that is far superior to current visual survey methods. Our field-proven survey platform is certified by the FAA and Transport Canada for use on the Bell 206 series of helicopters.

Author Information:
Noah Aklilu
Synodon, Inc.
6916 Roper Road
Edmonton T6B 3H9

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